Jay and Mary Beth Smith
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SALEM -- As parishioners of the second oldest parish in the Archdiocese of Boston -- second only to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross -- Jay and Mary Beth Smith see the future of the Church with hope. Particularly as Immaculate Conception Parish celebrates the 150th Anniversary of the church building -- the parish itself predates the church -- “we have all had the opportunity to look back on our history and to look forward to our future,” Jay Smith said.
The parish’s anniversary has had a particular impact on the Smiths because Jay is the chairperson of the 150th anniversary committee. As part of that role his “special assignment” has been to compile a history of Immaculate Conception.
“For a while, ours was the only church between Boston and Maine,” he noted.
He is also planning to compile a video history, with longtime parishioners describing their memories of the church.
According to Jay, the parish will mark the anniversary with a series of celebrations this fall, highlighted by a Mass which will be celebrated by Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley.
Yet serving as chair of the anniversary committee is only the most recent way Jay, 44, has served his parish. He has served on the parish pastoral council, co-chaired last year’s capital campaign, and has been a religious education teacher.
Being involved in parish life is a family affair. Jay’s wife, Mary Beth, 46, is the first Communion teacher for the parish and instructs couples in Natural Family Planning (NFP).
Twice a year, the parish hosts NFP training. While Mary Beth admits “it is not hugely popular,” she also sees that the archdiocese is “trying to promote NFP a little more” in recent years.
“Pope John Paul II’s teaching on the Theology of the Body will hopefully also give it a boost,” she added.
‘“The Theology of the Body is such a wealth of knowledge,” Mary Beth continued. “It helps couples to understand the need for faith in all aspects of their lives.”
Both Jay and Mary Beth see the importance of living their faith on a daily basis. Married for 22 years, the couple has four children who range in age from 21 down to 6.
“It amazes me how little some Catholics know about their faith,” Mary Beth said. “They are content to participate in the Mass, but they don’t examine the theology behind the beauty of the Church.”
“Our faith informs all aspects of our lives. It’s not just an hour on Sunday,” attested Jay. “It gives us the basis to the way we relate to each other, to our nuclear family, to our wider family, to our parish family and to the wider community.”
“At the end of the day, our faith is our rudder,” Jay continued. “It provides direction to everything we do.”